Three Gorges su­per ship lift boosts ef­fi­ciency, safety

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By YANG ZIMAN and HUYUANYUAN in Yichang, Hubei

The mas­sive new ship lift be­ing used at the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, the big­gest and high­est one in the world, has greatly boosted ef­fi­ciency and safety for ships go­ing through the dam, said the head of its op­er­a­tions.

The ship lift, which be­gan func­tion­ing in Septem­ber, can el­e­vate ves­sel­supto 3,000 met­ric tons up or down a ver­ti­cal dis­tance of 113 me­ters. The ship cham­ber it­self has a pool of wa­ter 120 me­ters long by 18 me­ters wide and 3.5 me­ters deep. The lift was built to ac­com­mo­date mostly small and medium-sized ves­sels, with big­ger ships still us­ing the dam’s ad­ja­cent five-tiered lock sys­tem to nav­i­gate the wa­ter­way.

“It only takes about 40 min­utes for a ship to go through the dam com­pared with around three hours in the past,” said Wu Xiaoyun, di­rec­tor of the ship lifter pro­gram and chief of the electro­mechan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing bureau ofChi­naThree­Gorges Corp.

Be­fore the com­ple­tion of the ship lift, all the ships had to use the five lev­els of ship locks.

“Ship locks were like stairs. Walk­ing up or down stairs is cer­tainly much slower than tak­ing the lift,” Wu said.

The ship lift is the big­gest in the world with max­i­mum lift­ing weight of 15,500 tons and max­i­mum height of 113 me­ters.

The new ship lift en­tered the sec­ond phase of its tri­als when it be­gan op­er­at­ing 24 hours a day in­Novem­ber, fol­low­ing its suc­cess­ful first tests in Septem­ber.

“Apart from faster speed, the ship lift is also safer. It’s very danger­ous if the ship catches fire in ship locks. But on the lift, with its open space, the chance for such a sit­u­a­tion de­vel­op­ing is much smaller,” saidWu.

He said one of the big­gest chal­lenges in build­ing the ship lift was a po­ten­tial swelling of the ce­ment tow­ers un­der the heat of the sun, which could tilt the lift.

In or­der to in­di­cate that a strict bal­ance for a ship was achieved as it was lifted, a coin was placed stand­ing up­right on the rail­ing of the ves­sel dur­ing the test run. The coin re­mained up­right through­out the process.

Wu said the bal­ance of a ship could also be ef­fected if the unit’s wheels for lift­ing the ship were to crack. To es­tab­lish be­yond doubt that the wheels are solid, they are sub­jected to ex­haus­tive test­ing which con­cluded that they are good for at least 70 years.

The ship lift was com­pletely made by China — the de­sign, the equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing, the in­stal­la­tion and con­struc­tion, saidWu.

Contact the writ­ers at yangz­i­man@chi­nadaily. and huyuanyuan@chi­

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